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"Fear not, Zacharias; for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."
Zacharias, seized with fear and surprise, could scarcely believe what the angel told him, and he said, "Whereby
As soon as the days of his ministry were at an end, he returned to his home full of hope and joy.
The time appointed by God for the fulfilment of the great mystery of our redemption had now come. The Son of God, the Saviour of the world, comes down from heaven, to fulfil the hopes of all nations; but before He appears, He makes known His coming. He sends His angel to tell Zacharias of the birth of His forerunner John, who was to prepare His way, and teach those people, who longed for the Saviour, to welcome Him with love and gratitude.
The history of our Lord and Saviour begins with this mysterious vision of Zacharias in the temple. Let us read it with a sincere heart, and a humble desire to profit by its divine lessons. We shall find in it a source of the greatest comfort, and the strongest motives to make us give up ourselves en
tirely to the service of that Saviour who has done so much for us.
2. THE VIRGIN MARY.
AT Nazareth, a little town of Galilee, there lived, humble and retired, a poor young virgin. Though she had descended from the royal race of King David, she worked for her own living. Her name was Mary. She was espoused to a carpenter named Joseph, who was as poor as herself; but he was a good man, and full of love to the blessed Saviour. Although Mary had none of the riches of this world, she was rich in virtue and goodness: she was innocent, sincere, and very humble.
Mary believed the prophecies which foretold the birth of the Divine Saviour, and she longed for His coming. About six months after Zacharias had
seen the vision, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to Mary. He appeared suddenly to her, and said, " Hail, thou that art highly favoured; the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women." When Mary saw the angel, and heard his words, she was afraid, and she could not understand what he meant. But the angel encouraged her with these words: "Fear not, Mary; for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive, and bring forth a son, and shalt call His name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David. And He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end."
This was wonderful news to a person so humble as this poor virgin, who had no am